Gig Harbor and Peninsula volleyball start state tournament play
Local volleyball talent was on display Nov. 12, when Peninsula and Gig Harbor faced each other in the district championship at Capital High School.
Peninsula (18-2) entered the district tournament as the No. 1 seed. They advanced to the championship match by mowing down Central Kitsap, Kelso and Prairie by convincing 3-0 scores.
When they reached the finals they found a familiar opponent in eighth-seeded Gig Harbor. The Tides (16-5) made the final with a 3-1 win over Lincoln and upsets of second-seeded Auburn Riverside (3-1) and fifth-seeded North Thurston (3-2).
The Tides almost upset South Sound Conference champion Peninsula on Nov. 8 before losing by two points in a five-set thriller. The district title game four days later wasn’t quite as close, as Peninsula won a competitive 3-1 match.
State tournament draw
Both teams had already earned state tournament berths, but the district final was important for seeding purposes. The state tournament is Thursday and Friday, Nov. 17 and 18, at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
The Seahawks earned the No. 3 seed to state and open play at 1:30 p.m. Thursday against the winner of an earlier game between Auburn Riverside and Lynnwood. The seventh-seeded Tides face 10th-seeded Ferndale at 11:45 a.m. Thursday.
The two teams could potentially face each other for a fourth time this season if both advance to the semifinals.
No. 3 Peninsula Seahawks
The Seahawks have a star in senior Langley Griffin, who has committed to play volleyball in the Pac-12 at Utah next year. She comes from a volleyball family. Her sister Maeve plays for the Washington Huskies.
Griffin, a 6-foot leaper, leads the team in kills (180), digs (191), hitting percentage (0.326) and service aces (32). She is a complete player who hustles and competes and is one of Peninsula’s all-time bests.
Almost every team at state has a star but volleyball is a team sport where players rotate court positions. A top team needs other talented players, and the Seahawks have lots of them.
Plenty of hitting options
Junior setter Mackenna Moloznik racked up a remarkable 345 assists on the season. Capable junior Avary Young is second with 128. They have plenty of hitting options to pass to.
In addition to Griffin, Peninsula has four other players with more than 75 kills. Talented 6-foot senior Laney Sneva has 87 kills and 14 blocks. Her 6-foot-1 sophomore sister Ziah is right behind her with 86 kills and a team-high 31 blocks. Alex Sims, a 5-foot-10 do-it-all senior, also has 86 kills.
If that’s not enough firepower, 5-foot-10 freshman Samantha Karjala has 74 kills and 30 blocks.
The engine of the team is junior libero Evalyn Sutherland. She is fantastic at digging out tough balls from the back row. She’s second on the team with 168 digs and added 23 aces.
No. 7 Gig Harbor Tides
The Gig Harbor Tides don’t have the height of some state teams, but they have athleticism and cohesion. They play together, seem to enjoy the underdog role and have steadily climbed the rankings.
“We are building something special and if we play like we have been, we can compete with anyone in the state,” coach Slade Klein said.
The Tides are led by setter Lydia Ward, who had 47 assists and 17 digs in the conference title game against Peninsula.
“Lydia has been solid all year and is one of the best setters in the state,” Klein said. “She gets to every ball and does a great job of spreading sets around to get all of our hitters involved. She is a fierce competitor and a great leader.”
Senior do-everything hitter Sam Heim had 17 kills, 4 aces and 11 digs against the Seahawks in the title game. Natalie Piasecki had 14 kills and 11 digs and senior Camryn Kelly was a difference-maker in the middle with 11 kills, 5 blocks and a .43 hitting percentage.
Ava Engelland has held strong from her corner position and had 19 digs against the Seahawks. Julia Rockstorm has displayed fire and competitiveness all season long. She is excellent at digging and pinpointing her passes.
All tournament games are being streamed live on NFHS.